The best thing to do with pure spam questions ('CHEAP NIKES' etc) it to get rid of them as fast as possible.

This can be done by the community casting 6 spam flags against the post. However, each spam flag also casts a downvote against it. People can also downvote posts they have flagged, or just downvote the spam post without flagging it as spam. After 4 downvotes the question will disappear off the frontpage but still remain open / undeleted. This means a spam post can theoretically accrue more downvotes than spam flags, and thus disappear off the front page of the site they're posted to.

This is bad.

We need spam to be removed altogether, not just hidden from the frontpage. If a post is hidden then it's less likely to acquire spam flags and will theoretically stick around longer than it should to.

I see no overall benefit to the site for spam posts to accrue downvotes. It's a hindrance more than a help really. People are free to downvote what they want, so we can't stop people downvoting spam. But we can stop spam flags from auto-downvoting.

So that's my suggestion. Remove the auto-downvote feature from spam flags. Unless someone can give me a good reason as to why downvoted spam is better than deleted spam.

  • 11
    I think one of the reasons for automatically down-voting the question was to remove it from the front page as quickly as possible even if the post wasn't deleted.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:48
  • @ChrisF: That may be true. But my argument is that that is not really the best thing to happen to the post.
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:50
  • I wasn't implying that it was the best thing to happen, just that it was consciously designed that way.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:52
  • 2
    Making it easier for spam to be removed with mod intervention, means that the underlying user will remain. If implemented, I think at least one of the following feature requests should be implemented along with it: Auto-delete/destroy 1 rep user when their post is deleted as spam, Raise an automatic flag for spammers
    – user642796
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:53
  • 2
    The only point of spam is to get as wide an audience as possible. Hiding it from the frontpage usually means that the majority will not see it, but those browsing the less popular questions page will see it and ideally flag it. And, on Arqade for example, spam posts that don't seem to get enough flags are often linked in chat (without onebox, of course) for others to flag, which gets rid of them very quickly. I'm not convinced it's good or bad just yet.
    – 3ventic
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:57
  • @3ventic: There might be some link equity benefit to the spammers for having links to their targets on Stack Exchange. The SE sites get indexed by Google pretty quickly so spammers may be benefiting from such if their posts stick around for even as much as 30 minutes or so. That is good for the spammers and bad for SE.
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 11:01
  • @JonW, You can always balance off by upvoting spam.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 23:23

4 Answers 4


Once it's been identified as spam, we want it off the front page. Nothing is more off-putting to a potential contributor than arriving to a site and finding the streets littered with discount Gucci bags. Once it's tagged - it's quickly purged.

Moderators see spam flagged posts in a different sort group than anything else, it's like a secondary bat signal. On most of our sites, pure spam gets flagged off the front page in seconds, and deleted within minutes (with a few exceptions).

Users can (and often do) go right to the "Questions" tab, then sort by newest while looking for something to do. It'll show up there, where it's quickly handled.

For the most part, we handle this sort of thing in a very elegant way. We make no bones about it - we get lots of spam (though, most of it is blocked these days) - but most people won't ever see it. That's hard, and we just sort of do it naturally, I'd hate to break that :)

  • 3
    That means we should (must?) downvote the spam posts?
    – Himanshu
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:42
  • 1
    @hims056 the first couple of spam flags are generally going to be sufficient to get it off the front page. The only exception would be if a few down votes didn't bring the post to a negative score, which means something was up-voting it, which means go get a moderator, 'fast as you can.
    – user50049
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:58
  • 2
    I beg to disagree about "deleted within minutes". Proof. 34 minutes and still counting, and it's not a small site. (deleted now, but still... 34 is more than a few) anyway this means moderators are NOT always available so it's vital for spam to stay in the front page where ordinary users with 15+ rep can see and flag it. Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:01
  • 3
    @TimPost - Seriously, I really didn't understand whether we should downvote spams or not.
    – Himanshu
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:07
  • 4
    It takes 4 downvotes to take it off the front page, while 6 spam flags are needed for it to get deleted. Doesn't the discrepancy mean that we should (atleast) not encourage downvotes + spam flags on the same post if we want to get it removed quickly? If 2 users flag + downvote, the post gets off the front page, while staying up till a moderator comes online. On the other hand, only flagging lets atleast 4 users flag it (before it goes off the front page) and possibly get more people's attention (flags) so that it can be removed earlier than when a moderator next comes online.
    – asheeshr
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:08
  • 1
    @AsheeshR - not showing is more important than deleting here (if I got it right)
    – Himanshu
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:21
  • OK, I think I agree. This is good reasoning so I'm happy to un-feature request this post (if that's actually a thing). Encouraging new users and not putting them off the site is more important than deleting it. Provided it does still get deleted sharpish, anyway.
    – JonW
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 7:45
  • 5
    Folks, don't forget - this all gets churned through /review too, as almost every single spam question or answer is posted by a brand new user. It can take a little while to ultimately get deleted, but it does get deleted. Time of day and other factors do influence how soon. On average, it does not live very long on most of our sites. Given that, getting it out of people's faces (that just want to read some questions) really is the main priority.
    – user50049
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 10:23

The front page is where the muggle users will see the post. The auto downvote gets it away from them as quickly as possible. Many of the users with flagging abilities will see the post in their moderator pages or /tools.

You can't have it both ways. Either that off-the-front-page spam is still seen by enough people that it gets flagged, or it isn't seen by enough people to flag it, thus sticking around longer/forever - but it isn't seen by anyone so it doesn't bother them. I think the first case is what happens, especially since there are lists of flagged posts available to many flaggers and mods that serve exactly that purpose. The current system hides it from those who cannot flag and at the same time highlights it for those who can.

  • 1
    Well, flagging requires very little rep. So flagging it should not be such a hassle. Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 11:28
  • You only need 15 rep to flag. Whom are you trying to hide the spam from? Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 14:03
  • 1
    @JanDvo Vikings.
    – user206222
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 15:56
  • @Emrakul, Meaning?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 23:25
  • @Pacerier youtu.be/cFrtpT1mKy8?t=33s
    – user206222
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 23:26

I disagree with this. The current system works fine IMHO. Let me explain you how. As @Kate said the front page (e.g. http://meta.stackexchange.com) is mostly used by new users who either don't have ability to flag or don't know to flag or don't flag in initial stage.

While veteran users, who have flagging ability, know how flagging system works, flag often (specially spam and offensive), mostly use question's tab (e.g. https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions) to browse questions.

As you said the downvoted questions will be disappeared from the from the front page. But actually they are disappeared from the front page only (where new users browse). We can still see them in the questions' tab (where veteran users browse).

So with the current system the chances of new user seeing spam posts is reduced while the chances of veteran users identifying spams is increased. Also they read heavily downvoted post more carefully it's people's nature.

  • I disagree that "veterans mostly use the questions tab". That's a bit of an assumption there. How do you know that's the case?
    – JonW
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:06
  • @JonW - That is a general case. I said "mostly" because veteran users are used to browse with specific tags of their interests (e.g. stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/sql?sort=active etc). And tagged questions can not be browsed from the front page.
    – Himanshu
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:12

The auto-downvote actually helps with combating spam on low-traffic sites.

For instance, this morning I saw spam on the Workplace. I noticed that the spam answer was posted to an old question, then I recall having seen another old question before on the same front page. So I navigated to that other question, scrolled (swiped) to the bottom of the page, and indeed: There's another spam post, ready for flagging.

(This approach relies on the (default) sorting order of answers, which is by votes. One could also sort by the "active" tab or use Ctrl + F to look for spam, but that takes too much efforts, especially on the mobile site.)

I would rather raise the required number of downvotes before a post falls of a frontpage (at least as much as needed to delete a post with spam flags). I see more spam than terrible answers, so it makes sense to optimize against spam.

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